US Soccer parted ways with head coach and technical director Jurgen Klinsmann today. After the recent losses to Mexico and Costa Rica, this move comes at no surprise.
However, Klinsmann did have some memorable times with this organization. None more memorable than the 2014 World Cup run. Sunil Gulati, President of U.S Soccer said as much in his official statement on the decision to let Klinsmann go:
Many are aware of the historic victories, including leading us out of the Group of Death to the Round of 16 in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but there were also lesser publicized efforts behind the scenes.
Gulati also noted Klinsmann's talent for raising the hackles of a great many American soccer fans, journalists, and executives:
He challenged everyone in the U.S. Soccer community to think about things in new ways, and thanks to his efforts we have grown as an organization and expect there will be benefits from his work for years to come.
After USMNT's most recent results, Klinsmann leaves behind a team in real danger of missing out on its biggest priority: qualification for the World Cup. Russia 2018 is just around the corner, and right now, the USA is bottom of CONCACAF's final qualifying group for the tournament. There is time to turn things around, but Gulati made clear that it was precisely because there was still time to retrieve the situation that made this an opportune moment for change:
While we remain confident that we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018, the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction. With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth consecutive World Cup.
USMNT has eight games to climb up the CONCACAF Hexagonal table and claim a berth at Russia 2018.
Who will take the team to the next World Cup?
It is rumored that Bruce Arena will step in and take charge. Arena was USMNT head coach from 1998-2006. Under Arena, the USA had its famed World Cup run in 2002, beating Portugal in the group stage and knocking off Mexico in the round of 16: arguably the best showing the team has ever had in a World Cup. In his eight years as head coach, he also became USMNT's winningest manager with 71 wins.
Hearing Bruce Arena is indeed Klinsmann's replacement. https://t.co/oZD46Ex3nX— Doug McIntyre (@DougMacESPN) November 21, 2016
Whoever gets the job, they will take over a team with a lot of potential. It is still very possible to qualify for the World Cup, and there is an emerging generation of players (Christian Pulisic perhaps foremost among them) to build around.
With a new coach comes new ideas, but the basic principle is always the same: pick the right players, point them in the right direction, and start accumulating the right results.
USMNT will enter the new year under new leadership but with the same goal: get out of the current rut and re-assert the team's status as a CONCACAF heavyweight capable of challenging the world's best teams on the sport's biggest stage.